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A New Species of Muscicapa Flycatcherfrom Sulawesi, IndonesiaJ. Berton C. Harris1,2., Pamela C. Rasmussen3,4., Ding Li Yong5,6,Dewi M. Prawiradilaga7, Dadang Dwi Putra8, Philip D. Round9, Frank E. Rheindt10*

1. Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide,South Australia, Australia, 2. Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University,Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America, 3. Michigan State University Museum and Department ofIntegrative Biology, East Lansing, Michigan, United States of America, 4. Bird Group, Department of LifeSciences, Natural History Museum at Tring, Tring, Herts, United Kingdom, 5. Fenner School of Environmentand Society, Australian National University, Acton, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, 6. South-east AsianBiodiversity Society, Singapore, Republic of Singapore, 7. Division of Zoology, Research Centre for Biology,Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia, Cibinong-Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, 8. Celebes Bird Club, Palu,Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, 9. Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok,Thailand, 10. Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Republic ofSingapore


. These authors contributed equally to this work.


The Indonesian island of Sulawesi, a globally important hotspot of avian endemism,

has been relatively poorly studied ornithologically, to the extent that several new

bird species from the region have been described to science only recently, and

others have been observed and photographed, but never before collected or

named to science. One of these is a new species of Muscicapa flycatcher that has

been observed on several occasions since 1997. We collected two specimens in

Central Sulawesi in 2012, and based on a combination of morphological, vocal and

genetic characters, we describe the new species herein, more than 15 years after

the first observations. The new species is superficially similar to the highly

migratory, boreal-breeding Gray-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta, which

winters in Sulawesi; however, the new species differs strongly fromM. griseisticta in

several morphological characters, song, and mtDNA. Based on mtDNA, the new

species is only distantly related to M. griseisticta, instead being a member of the M.

dauurica clade. The new species is evidently widely distributed in lowland and

submontane forest throughout Sulawesi. This wide distribution coupled with the

species apparent tolerance of disturbed habitats suggests it is not currently

threatened with extinction.


Citation: Harris JBC, Rasmussen PC, Yong DL,Prawiradilaga DM, Putra DD, et al. (2014) A NewSpecies of Muscicapa Flycatcher from Sulawesi,Indonesia. PLoS ONE 9(11): e112657. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112657

Editor: Axel Janke, BiK-F Biodiversity and ClimateResearch Center, Germany

Received: June 12, 2014

Accepted: October 7, 2014

Published: November 24, 2014

Copyright: 2014 Harris et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of theCreative Commons Attribution License, whichpermits unrestricted use, distribution, and repro-duction in any medium, provided the original authorand source are credited.

Data Availability: The authors confirm that all dataunderlying the findings are fully available withoutrestriction. All DNA sequences are available fromGenbank (accession numbers KM924371 toKM924385).

Funding: This project was funded by the NationalGeographic Society (NGS CRE 8919-11; grantedto PCR), the Loke Wan Tho Memorial Foundation(granted to DLY), and an EIPR scholarship at theUniversity of Adelaide (granted to JBCH). Labworkfor this project was co-funded by a NationalUniversity of Singapore Faculty of Science start-upgrant to FER (WBS R-154-000-570-133). We thankRISTEK for issuing the national research permits(for 2011, 0215/SIP/FRP/VI/2011; for 2012, 183/SIP/FRP/SM/VI/2012) and Lore Lindu NationalPark for permit letters. The Research Centre forBiology-LIPI supported DMP and DDP in their fieldresearch and provided facilities for laboratoryanalysis. The funders had no role in study design,data collection and analysis, decision to publish, orpreparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declaredthat no competing interests exist.

PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0112657 November 24, 2014 1 / 33


The Indonesian island of Sulawesi and its satellite islands are of great

biogeographic interest due to the regions complex geography which arose from

the collision of several tectonic plates [1, 2]. Stemming from this geological

history, Sulawesi is an important center of avian endemism with 42 species (about

one-sixth of its resident avifauna) and 14 genera found nowhere else in the world

[3, 4]. This level of avifaunal endemism is unmatched globally among comparably

sized tropical islands [5].

Sulawesi remains ornithologically one of Earths least-known areas, as

evidenced by the number of recent avian discoveries, especially considering that c.

98% of the worlds birds have been described [6]. Recently described species from

the Sulawesi region include Cinnabar Hawk-owl Ninox ios [7], Sangihe Scops-owl

Otus collari [8], Togian Hawk-owl N. burhani [9], Togian White-eye Zosterops

somadikartai [10], and two new rails from the Talaud Islands [11, 12]. In addition,

several unnamed avian taxa in the region have been observed, but not yet

described (e.g. [3, 1316]). The high levels of endemism in Sulawesi combined

with alarming habitat loss (10.8% deforestation from 20002010; [17]) suggest

that many of the islands birds, particularly species dependent on lowland forests,

may be threatened with extinction [18], some of them before they are even

scientifically described.

One of these new birds, a Muscicapa flycatcher, has been awaiting formal

scientific description for 15 years since it was first documented. While

birdwatching in secondary broadleaf forest with some remnant large trees in Lore

Lindu National Park, Central Sulawesi, at 1,025 m elevation on 20 Jul 1997, King

et al. [19] observed a bird that looked similar to the migratory Gray-streaked

Flycatcher M. griseisticta (Figure 1). However since it was observed during the

boreal summer when migrants were back in their breeding grounds in northern

Asia, the record would be highly unusual if it referred to M. griseisticta. King et al.

[19] described details of the bird, including the fact that it appeared smaller and

shorter-winged than M. griseisticta, with a distinctively dusky-streaked throat and

plain face pattern. King et al. [19] observed what they believed to be the same

putatively undescribed species again on 22 Jul 1997 at 650 m in a very patchy

remnant of forest at the tiny settlement of Baku Bakulu (km 31 from Palu, on

the road leading south-east from Palu through Lore Lindu National Park, Palolo

district near Lore Lindu (21.1142 S, 119.9917 E). On 23 Jul, a similar bird was

observed 500 km to the northeast at 250 m in Bogani Nani Wartabone National

Park, North Sulawesi (Figure 2), in mixed primary and secondary broadleaf

evergreen forest [19]. Subsequent searches among likely taxa in major

ornithological collections have failed to find any misidentified specimens that

could represent this taxon (N. J. Collar, pers. comm.; P.C.R., this study). Only a

few taxa of Muscicapa have previously been included in DNA phylogenies [20].

Subsequent to the observations of King et al. [19], visiting birdwatchers have

observed the apparently undescribed species at several additional locations and

have even documented evidence of breeding (Table 1).

A New Species of Flycatcher from Sulawesi

PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0112657 November 24, 2014 2 / 33

As part of field work to study undescribed taxa in Central Sulawesi, we searched

for the undescribed Muscicapa flycatcher in and around Lore Lindu National Park

at Danau Tambing, the Anaso track, Badaeha, and Baku Bakulu in Jul 2011 and

Jul 2012. In 2011 we focused on Badaeha because most recent Central Sulawesi

sightings came from that area (D.D.P. pers. obs.), but we were unable to find the

flycatcher there or at any other site in the national park. Eventually we located an

individual of the species at Baku Bakulu on 27 Jul 2011, but we were unable to

collect a specimen. In 2012 we returned to Baku Bakulu (which is just outside

Lore Lindu National Park) where we made comprehensive but unsuccessful

attempts to capture the species with canopy mist nets and ground nets. The

tendency of the Muscicapa flycatcher to forage in the forest mid-levels and

subcanopy prevented it from being readily captured. In fact, we had been camping

and netting birds intensively in the area for a full week in 2012 before we had our

first sighting of the undescribed flycatcher on 21 Jun, at which point we set canopy

mist nets where the bird was sighted. On the same day we obtained sound

recordings at Baku Bakulu of an individual that was seen clearly while singing. On